KDE Connect brings iPhone connectivity to Linux
The iPhone and Linux go together like strawberries and mustard. Apple has no interest in supporting Linux and most open source developers hate Apple and its proprietary platforms. But some iPhone users also use Linux, and while no one expects the same tight integration that iPhone and Mac share, it would at least be nice to swap files between devices occasionally.
Linux was actually ahead of Apple in smartphone integration, at least on Android. Since 2013, KDE Connect has enabled Linux users to wirelessly share clipboards, notifications, files, URLs, SMS, and more. between their Android phones and their Linux desktops.
The KDE Connect app is now available for free on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. Apple’s restrictions make it less functional than the Android version, but it still offers significant integration between your iPhone and your Linux desktop. KDE Connect for iOS lets you:
- Use Your Linux Desktop to Find a Lost iPhone
- Send images and files back and forth between Linux and iOS
- Show iPhone Battery Status in Linux and Vice Versa
- Send clipboard from iPhone to Linux
- Use your iPhone as a pointing device or slideshow controller for Linux
- Run Linux commands on your Linux desktop from your iPhone
Alas, KDE Connect does not allow you to send and receive SMS messages through your iPhone on a Linux desktop, which is possible with Android phones. Also, the KDE Connect app does not run in the background, which means you have to keep the app open to use it.
KDE Connect Review
I tested KDE Connect on a live version of KDE Neon, a KDE-based Linux distribution, running from a USB stick. KDE Connect is built into KDE, so connecting to my iPhone 11 Pro was as easy as opening KDE Connect on my laptop and iPhone and clicking Find Devices on the laptop.
Once connected, I could send files to the iPhone either from the KDE Connect application or directly from the context menu of Dolphin, KDE’s equivalent of the Finder.
KDE Connect is native to the KDE desktop environment. However, the GNOME desktop environment is much more popular. Instead of installing the entire KDE backend under GNOME to install KDE Connect, you can use a GNOME plugin called GSConnect which provides the same functionality as KDE Connect and is compatible with the KDE Connect application. Unlike KDE Connect, GSConnect is not built-in, so you have to install it manually.
On my usual Linux distribution, Pop!_OS, which runs a custom version of GNOME, I had to tinker to get GSConnect to work. First, I installed GSConnect from Pop!_Shop (the Pop_OS app store), which allowed me to connect the iOS app, but there was no interface to speak of on the GNOME desktop. I then had to install the GSConnect GNOME extension from the GNOME extensions website, which also required me to install a browser plugin. After all that, it appeared in the GNOME menu bar.
KDE Connect isn’t as comprehensive on the iPhone and iPad as it is on Android, but it makes it easier than ever to work between iOS and Linux. In my tests, all the advertised functions worked well. And given how difficult almost anything can be on Linux, I was impressed with how easy it was to set up.
If you’re one of the few people who wants to use an iPhone with a Linux box, try KDE Connect.